Overwork is the new normal. Rest is something to do when the important things are done-but they are never done. Looking at different forms of rest, from sleep to vacation, Silicon Valley futurist and business consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang dispels the myth that the harder we work the better the outcome. He combines rigorous scientific research with a rich array of examples of writers, painters, and thinkers---from Darwin to Stephen King---to challenge our tendency to see work and relaxation as antithetical. "Deliberate rest," as Pang calls it, is the true key to productivity, and will give us more energy, sharper ideas, and a better life. Rest offers a roadmap to rediscovering the importance of rest in our lives, and a convincing argument that we need to relax more if we actually want to get more done.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Given that we don't seem to take the kind of advice Pang offers, it should probably be repeated as often as possible. This book is kind of a fleshed-out version of all the clickbait articles you read about getting more R&R: the stuff you already know, but with the science behind it. And the science is very good/interesting.
The problem for a lot of readers is that these strategies assume you're a middle to upper class white collar person who has the kind of life where you CAN put most of these strategies into practice. Taking a nap in your office, for example, is NBD if you have a desk and a door, or even a cubicle. Try napping at the factory, McDonalds' or the daycare center -- to name just a few examples -- and you're probably SOL. It's also easy to take all your vacation time if you do, indeed, get paid vacation as part of your benefits package: many jobs don't offer it.
In addition, most of the people Pang holds up as examples of folks who practiced good rest strategies were generally white males who were in a position to do so. With no kids to chase around or domestic duties to perform on TOP of your paid labor, it's a snap to engage in "deep play" and sabbaticals. The shocking lack of women (white OR WOC) here is another indicator that the audience for this book is somewhat limited.
If your library is off somewhere in a homogeneous suburb where this kind of advice will fly, you should definitely purchase it. Otherwise, I'd steer clear, especially if you're in a rural area or urban area with great wealth disparities. It's not that Pang doesn't have great things to say; it's just that, while interesting, they just don't apply to most people, and many libraries will not fall into its bracket. An optional purchase everywhere except suburbia and Silicon Valley.
The cover is misleading. This is not a book about idleness, but it is also not about how you have to be a mountain climber in your spare time to be successful. It's really a series of examples illustrating Flow. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Compared with a book I recently read, "Deep Work", this one is much better: -It's not just filled with "I'm so great" anecdotes. This author did homework to find stories of people you might have heard of: Darwin, Ike, Stephen King, etc. -It's not repetitively nagging at you to stop looking at your emails, etc.. It's explaining the benefits of positive recommendations, like napping. -It gives evidence that's somewhat convincing, like the prospective study of scientists, to back up the points it's making. (Unfortunately it wastes too many pages on ungeneralizable psychology experiments and on neurobollocks: see Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience.) -It looks like serious non-fiction, with a theme that runs throughout the book and is built up with explorations from various angles, and it has a Notes section as well as a Bibliographic Essay.
Overall, I think that if people followed the advice in this book, to find Flow in work and play, then the kind of advice about not checking email would be superfluous.
I'm a bit conflicted about this book. It starts out by saying 'don't work all the time - rest is important, too'. But by the end it's mostly a manifesto to not so much *rest* as do hard and challenging stuff (climb mountains, play the violin) *in addition to* working quite a lot.
The most successful scientists, for instance, have very intensive hobbies, while less successful scientists don't.
Which makes me wonder: is that perhaps because the successful people have more energy in the first place? Are we shaming people with a little less fuel in the tank for to pursue those intensive side projects, telling them 'if only you did EVEN MORE, you'd be more of a success'? Or would the energy to become more successful *follow* if you pursued sports and music? Can't quite figure it out.
"We shouldn't regard rest as a mere physical necessity to be satisfied grudgingly; we should see it as an opportunity. When we stop and rest properly, we're not paying a tax on creativity. We're investing in it." pg 11
I think we're living in a culture that generally glorifies busyness and a frantic pace of achievement. That's not news.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang takes a deep dive into the science of rest and shares the insight that taking breaks isn't something we should squeeze into our schedule. Rest, he argues, is as important as the work itself.
Four of his major points are: "work and rest are partners", "rest is active", "rest is a skill", and "deliberate rest stimulates and sustains creativity".
I was particularly interested in the creativity-related point of Pang's hypothesis.
"You need time for rest because that's when the unconscious mind can get to work. You can't command inspiration to appear, but you can nudge it, most notably by working steadily and regularly. The romantic image of the artist who does nothing until he's inspired and then produces in a furious burst of work is misleading." pg 91
Pang looked into the lives and routines of creative thinkers throughout history and came to the perhaps surprising conclusion that four concentrated hours of work per day is sufficient.
"The pattern of working four hard hours with occasional breaks isn't just confined to scientists, writers, or other people who are already successful, well-established, and have the freedom to set their own schedules. You can also see it among students who go on to become leaders in their fields." pg 67
The rest of the day that geniuses such as Charles Darwin or Ernest Hemingway lived were filled with activities like long walks, day dreaming, active rest, sport and other seemingly unrelated moments that fueled the subconscious mind.
"The right kinds of rest would restore their energy while allowing their muse, that mysterious part of their minds that helps drive the creative process, to keep going."
What these activities may be vary from person to person, but Pang's research proves time and again that the rest portion of the day is critical.
One of my favorite parts of this book dealt with Malcolm Gladwell's popular 10,000 hours for mastery idea that he discusses in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success. Yes, Pang argues, 10,000 hours are necessary for exceptional performance. But we're ignoring the rest of the equation.
"It comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest, and 30,000 hours of sleep." pg 74
From morning routines and sabbaticals to naps and carving out time for more sleep, Pang exhorts the reader to make rest a priority. It's not lazy, it is one of the building blocks of a creative and productive life. Sign me up. :)
Alternative title:Cause and Correlation: How confusing the two makes for poor arguments
I really hate to give this such a poor rating, but as a book, that's what it deserves. The underlying theory is solid enough and I actually agree with the conclusions the author makes on the topic of rest, but unfortunately, the way this book went about trying to prove his theory was just awful. Each chapter started off well enough with a description of a rest technique, but then, instead of any sort of compelling scientific or logical arguments, we got an endless list of mini-biographies of people who happened to use that technique. One or two examples would have been more than enough to show that there might be some correlation between a resting technique and real-world achievements (even if you're naive enough to believe that a single factor is ever enough to explain anyone's personal success).
The especially annoying thing is that I really believe that the core ideas of this book should be more mainstream. Simply using my own anecdotal experiences with a number of the topics covered in this book, I can confidently say that my quality of life and work have improved thanks to them. However, I can't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone for a number of reasons. Firstly, there's very little good science used to properly justify the author's assertions with most of the examples being from small studies with mostly dubious protocols and assertions. Second, the primary arguments are all based on logical fallacies such as appeals to authority, cherry-picking data, appeals to popularity and false cause arguments. Next, there's the problem of the practicality of his ideas. It's all well and good to claim that 4-6 hours of focused work is ideal in a day and to make time for walks, naps and exercise, but most people work in organizations where they don't have the luxury of defining their own hours and aren't able to neglect more pressing issues like chores in favour of taking that nap. And lastly, this isn't even a particularly engaging book and could easily have been a blog post or TED talk.
Even with this book being so short, the actual useful and interesting content comprises about a fifth of the book and even then, most of the advice is stuff most people already know like that getting a good night's sleep is important and that engaging hobbies help with alleviating work-related stress. I found a somewhat similar book, Deep Work to be far better in terms of giving practical advice on how to optimize one's work-life balance.
Step 1 - Begin chapter with a bunch of anecdotes and stories about famous scientists, athletes and politicians who found the practice the chapter is about helpful.
Step 2 - Throw in references to a study or two about why the practice the chapter is about is helpful.
Step 3 - Summarize.
This is a pretty good book about why rest is helpful. But after a while, the book becomes redundant. You can skim through the chapters, read the summaries and get it:
*Four hours - For maximum efficiency, work about four hours and then do something else. If you think working 8-12 or more hours a day is good, you're actually wrong and probably not producing much more (and definitely not much better) work then people who stop at about four.
*Morning routine - You work best in the morning, so work hard early.
*Walk - To clear your mind, take a walk.
*Nap - You got up early and worked hard, take a nap. By the way, many of the greats he references would come back and work four more hours later in the day after their nap/walk.
*Stop - Once you're done working, be done.
*Sleep - Go to bed. Don't worry, your brain keeps processing when you're sleeping.
*Exercise - Ever hear the contrast between jocks and nerds? Its wrong. The best and brightest also exercise and care for their bodies.
*Deep play - Find a hobby, something that engages your mind.
*Sabbatical - Whether a week or a month, get away.
This book is helpful for a culture that on one hand, is filled with workaholics, and on the other hand, we "rest" by mostly watching tv. The point isn't to only work four hours and then be a couch potato. The point is if you have a daily routine of work, rest, exercise and hobbies that engage your mind then you will be productive and healthy.
He doesn't really talk about how this routine would work for people in jobs that do not allow naps and walks. If you're a teacher, its not like you can take an hour walk after lunch? He's mostly addressing people in science and artistic/creative jobs. That said, I suspect some of the principles carry over with some modification. Even if you are forced to work 9-5, find ways in the evening to mentally engage (read more, watch Netflix less).
Overall, I am surprised he didn't bash TV more. Replacing other leisure activities with television (and now smartphones - arguing on Twitter) is certainly not good for your health. I'm challenged to build up more of a routine and to spend more time exercising. I am also going to note, as a Christian and person of faith, that much of this is built into the theology and belief system of most religions. Its always fun when science and experience confirm what religions have long taught - take a break, take care of your body as you are both body and spirit.
I was fascinated by so many aspects of this book. First, the basic premise: that in the modern world we've come to wear overwork and multitasking and stress like badges of honor, when in reality these things make us less efficient and less effective. The many studies and scientific explanations throughout the book well support this premise. The many anecdotes pulled from throughout history and across disciplines highlight the science at work in the lives of some of our greatest thinkers, artists, and changemakers--it's one thing to be told we need to take rest seriously, but it's the stories that inspire us to do so. I have only two complaints about this book. One, that it took several chapters before any women made it into the examples and stories (eventually though, the author does include plenty). Two, that the author never really addressed something I think is important, which is that in many of the most significant examples he gives of great (male) thinkers/writers/etc he doesn't acknowledge the fact that these guys were able to uphold their "disciplined rest" schedules because they had wives and mothers and servants to take care of mundane chores they would never have to deal with themselves. I don't think it undermines his point overall, and it's a fact that shouldn't have been glossed over so frequently if the intention is to show readers what's possible. Bringing in this aspect, or otherwise making more of a point about modern challenges on our time like keeping house, child rearing, spending time with one's spouse and family, etc. especially for women would have just made the stories that much more relatable and even more inspiring.
I want to give this book 10 stars, because our culture needs this message so much. I saw this author keynote at a conference a few years back (wish I could remember which one), his talk at that time was about another of his books, but what I remember is how impressed I was by his presentation and his ideas. So when I saw this book among the new titles at the Mechanics Institute, I had to check it out. Now I will return the library copy and buy one to keep. The message seemed so obvious, I was a little hesitant at first, but a quick dip at random convinced me to read it, and I am so glad I did. I've been trying to change my workaholic ways, and this book persuades me that not only is that good for me, but it will also be good for my work. Rest of the kinds described here (including the dreaded exercise) is likely to make me more effective and creative when I do work, so that I am more useful to my employer than if I merely slog away for longer and longer hours. I have certainly spent years trying the longer and longer hours approach, so I know for sure that's not sustainable. It is good to know that research backs me up on this -- and lots of great stories, which you will enjoy reading, if you follow my suggestion of getting ahold of this book at the earliest available opportunity.
In Rest Alex Soojung-Kim Pang uses science (mostly psych studies, and a few brain studies) and historical examples to explore the concept of "deliberate rest." He posits that the best way to optimize one's creativity and focus for deep intellectual and creative work is to actually spend less time consciously doing the work itself and more time on various types of deliberate rest. The main point is that deliberate rest (including walks, naps, etc.) allows the brain time to integrate and process, thus rendering the actual focused work time highly productive.
I think he makes many important points about the damaging ways work is viewed in our current culture, and I have personally found that many of the things he points out have been effective stimulators of creativity in my own personal experience. I find his examples of a structured routine of four hours of focused work followed by a walk, nap, correspondence, etc. is very appealing. However, I was frustrated that in the end the book is not particularly practical and provides no guidance on how the things he is discussing might apply to those of us with corporate jobs that expect a minimum of 8 hours a day on the job. This surprised me since he is supposedly a "silicon valley thinker."
There was also another thing that bothered me about the book: his tone comes across as a little bit presumptuous or all-knowing. That is, it felt like he was basically saying "to be most creative you must do x, y, and z" without allowing for the vast differences between people in terms of their needs, propensities, and desires. For example, one entire chapter is dedicated to starting early in the morning, but reading between the lines I felt that the more important point was that having a regular routine is important. I highly doubt that all really creative people in history were early morning risers. It felt like his historical examples were cherry-picked to support his claims (I felt this in other chapters as well). Another place where this got to me were the chapters on exercises and deep play, where he went on at length about prominent scientists and intellectuals who are/were rock climbers. It began to feel like he was saying there was something particularly special about rock climbing! This made me start to feel inadequate since I am not drawn to being an "athlete" at all, and especially not a rock climber.
In the end, while he has some helpful ways of thinking about the concepts of work and rest, I came away from the book feeling a bit disappointed and inadequate. He lays out an ideal that is hard to meet without any practical suggestions for how to get closer to it.
The author says rest is just as important as work because quality rest makes work time more energetic, creative, efficient, and inspired. Rest can mean taking a walk, taking a nap, going on vacation, indulging in a hobby. He has such good examples and writes so clearly, the book's purpose is fulfilled 3/4 of the way through. "Rest " can be read quickly.
Not 5 stars because the book was longer than necessary. And it is not long, less than 300 pages. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is just too efficient. Maybe he wrote it while well-rested but then was told by the publisher that it needed to be longer.
There's a lot of great stuff in here about how the overwork, always-on, always-busy mentality is nothing but optics and posturing. Real deep work doesn't happen when you're always working but rather, when you spend more time in rest modes -- think sleeping, napping, walking, playing deeply, being physically active. This book collects the science behind it all and offers more reason why we should spend more time "off" than we spend "on."
My big criticism is this, though: it's almost entirely men who are cited and used as examples. The few instances of women are, in fact, talked about in relation to the thing that isn't said here -- how they balance parenting and household responsibilities with being "off." Also not mentioned are the privileges many of the folks in here had that allowed them to BE "off," like hired help around the house, supportive families who took on more tasks, etc. Those are all unsaid, but I think essential in understanding who gets the luxury of rest in our culture.
That caveat aside, which is one I have about so many work/life books, still really worthwhile. Solid on audio!
If you're looking for a rundown of the habits of Great People, this is the book for you. There are a couple of recent scientific studies in Rest which were much more interesting than hearing for the third time that our great f(r)iend Churchill took naps.
I was expecting a much more pragmatic book. Too many of Pang's examples are taken from nineteenth-century aristocrats. If anything they just illustrate how landed gentry used to live, rather than illuminating facts about optimal work.
It seemed like a huge oversight that in a book about rest, meditiation isn't mentioned once. There has been some interesting research on how meditation influences brain states, which seems relevant to the "active rest" Pang describes.
Despite being part of the "creative class" that Pang speaks to, I found the book derivative, repetitive, and not particularly enlightening. If you're in a minimum wage or office-type job, none of the information in the book will apply to you.
A friend recommended this book, and I think it has changed my life forever. I've always had this instinct to be a really focused worker when I'm working and then let my mind wander for long stretches to solve creative problems, but frankly, I always beat myself up for it and felt guilty about the natural rhythms my creative process wanted to take. This book not only alleviated that guilt, but it made me feel like my instincts are RIGHT. There is absolutely a way to be more productive in your creative endeavors by working FEWER hours, not more... It has been like a weight lifted. If you feel burdened by the burden of creativity, read this and it might just free YOU up to create more, too.
You do more if you work less. This is a homeopathic book. Once you won't do a thing your results will reach the infinity. And that is certainly the case as the people who do nothing are next to perfection.
Sarcasm aside, this is a poorly written book about how to work more. Yea, besides the title, nothing is about working less. It is about working more. Which makes much more sense than the catchy and misleading title. Only this time you don't just go to work. You start working at dawn, do some physical activity, and so on. You work more for the same pay. And at the end of the day you should be glad that you did so much for your employer. Atta boy / girl! Go to bed early because tomorrow is another working day.
We should all work less and rest more. Not only will you be more at peace but you will also be more productive and creative. Here's how: work four hours at a time, develop a morning routine, take walks, take cat naps, stop when you are going good so you know exactly where to dive in when you restart work, get plenty of sleep, take vacations, exercise everyday, participate in deep play (sport, hobby, musical instrument, etc), take a sabbatical every few years. And then you will have a restful life. Author did not mention but I would add eat healthy and meditate or pray.
First, the good: the author lists the benefits of resting in all its incarnations (naps, breaks, sleep, vacations, …) and delineates specific advice for what works best: • Start work early and concentrate on the most challenging work first • 4 hours creative work per day, consisting of two periods of 90 minutes, with a 15- to 20-minute break in between • The break can be a nap (if so, make sure it’s after being awake for 6 hours), or a walk or aerobic exercise • After the second 90-minute period of work, segue to other activities: outdoor pursuits, answering correspondence, etc. • Stop work on a project when you can see the next step to take. Let your subconscious mind work on it.
Then, the bad: this is one of the most privileged books I’ve ever read. His examples (philosophers, composers, writers, painters, scientists, executives, politicians) don’t reflect most of society and he keeps talking about how rest is important for creative people. Do others not deserve rest? He’s also contradictory in places: at one point he details the benefits of completely detaching from work while on vacation, but everything up until then had been about treating work as vacation and how they aren’t mutually exclusive. Add to this the fact that it’s pretty dry to wade through and I would have a difficult time recommending this.
I have mixed feelings about this book. First, its title is misleading. It's not really about rest, it's about focused recreation, with a couple of quick chapters on sleep and naps. It covers much of the same ground as Cal Newport's terminally shallow book, Deep Work, but more thoroughly, with better examples and analysis. It touches on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work as covered in Flow, but more efficiently.
There are a lot of potentially useful insights here, and I enjoyed reading it but found the the beginning was a lot better than the end, which fell off in a long string of skimmable citations and never really came to a strong conclusion, which would have been easy to do given the strong groundwork he laid out. Maybe that's because the author realized how very difficult it would be for most people to apply these insights in the modern world (he mentions housecleaning in the conclusion, as if he's just remembered that that's a thing people do). Oh, he tries, but while he mentions some modern-day scientists and their demanding hobbies, the vast majority of the examples he cites come from the Victorian era and early to middle years of the 20th century, men (and vanishingly few women) who never had to do the regular chores of keeping a household going, and many of whom never even had a day job, or had to worry about money. Some did, but the privilege behind all those hours of intensive creation and recreation never gets the thorough examination it needs.
It's a pity he didn't do more with it, but it was good enough that I'm tempted to check out the author's other book.
This book does a decent job proving its thesis - that rest is vital to the quality of a person's work, health, and life - with studies and anecdotes. It piles on so many studies and anecdotes, though, that the prose often reads more like a laundry list than a narrative. And yet it says little that contemporary books and magazines haven't already said about health, creativity, and productivity. Still, it serves as a useful reminder to take breaks and vacations.
My main gripe: For every female example of a well-rested high achiever profiled in this book, there are about 20 male examples. Assuming this pattern is not a result of the author's biases, it suggests that we live in a world where it's just harder for women to get the rest they need to excel. If so, I think a more interesting and relevant book would spend some time exploring why that is. Sadly, this one doesn't.
Pretty interesting how the author links the ideas on improvement of thought process. Although I can’t agree with what he sees as idleness as idleness, the ideas of improving you performance in general by adding exercises to your daily life is pretty valuable and I can relate it to my life after moving to the Netherlands.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
If you are thinking to lack of your performance. this book can help you to make your rest time improving management that to repair it. اگر ميزان بهره وري كاريتان پايين است اين كتاب با نحوه برنامه ريزي زمان استراحت شما مي تواند شما را ياري كند
Perhaps my difficulty in getting through this book proves that I need it the most. Excruciatingly well researched, this book details the many ways successful scientists, writers, generals, engineers, CEOs, etc., incorporated active rest into their lives. The author attempts to draw a parallel between this active rest and levels of success and achievement.
While at times inspiring, I found the narrative often dragged, with examples drawn out or many similar examples provided. The opening chapters, including the Intro and the definition of rest, etc., were the ones I finally flipped past--if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten through this book at all.
One issue was never addressed, which I'd really hoped it would be. The book mentioned a writer who woke up at four in order to write, before heading to his day job. So when did he build in time to rest? When did he take naps? The "restful" schedule suggested by the author is extremely unrealistic for anyone working for others. It's great that Einstein had opportunities to aimlessly wander around the university grounds, but for those of us who teach six hours a day, when are we supposed to slip off for those rejuvenating strolls? How many employers would be cool with their employees taking a power nap? How can one take naps, get seven hours of sleep a night, play sports, take daily walks, and engage in deep play like painting or playing a musical instrument, while also running a household, working, and making time for family and friends? To me, incorporating all of the above would lead to a pretty demanding schedule, which the author advises against.
Some of the ideas were still quite good, and I took plenty of notes, but I wish he'd given some practical applications/advice for those of us who don't have 100% control over our time. Also, almost everyone he mentioned was male, so presumably they didn't have to worry about taking care of the household, including doing all the cooking, cleaning, and childrearing. Makes a huge difference.
If you feel guilty about resting, this book is for you! The stories, lessons, and studies in this book are so compelling. Such a timely book in an non-stop culture.
My favorite quote: “ if you want to burn out and die young, no one will stop you; but if you want to live a ripe old age, enjoy that life, and be engaged and active throughout, it seems deliberate rest can help you get there.“